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Houston’s 311 line open for service

A new 311 service help line is expected to ease demand on the city’s 911 emergency response system and eliminate hundreds of city customer service telephone numbers.

Mayor Lee Brown touted the system as a management tool to improve accountability among city workers who are asked to resolve resident citizen complaints or requests for service.

Each request or complaint will be logged and assigned to a specific city employee responsible for solving the problem or retrieving the information needed by callers, officials said.

“What’s important is we can track the results and find out what has been done with that particular problem that is brought to our attention,” Brown said.

Complaints about the system itself and expectations the city may raise but be unable to fulfill began to roll in even before the 311 service was officially launched last Monday.

City Councilman Mark Goldberg said he tried the system recently but found he had to wait as long as 20 minutes to get a person on the telephone.When he finally got someone, the operator was unable to give him the information he was seeking, Goldberg said.

Donald Hollingsworth, the mayor’s executive assistant for public safety and drug policy who is overseeing the development of the 311 system, said the delay may have been because of work on the telephone switch during last week’s soft launch.
Nonetheless, Goldberg said he thought the system will be good “once the bugs are worked out.”

In addition, officials hope the line will reduce the number of unnecessary 911 calls and lead to faster emergency response times.